Hair loss can be very distressing, particularly for women. It may occur due to certain medications, underlying medical condition, or it can be genetic. The article presents a brief overview on the common causes of hair loss in women.
On an average people lose 50-100 strands of hair a day. Apart from this if hair is washed then approximately 250 strands are lost. However, if a person loses more than this hair daily then it calls for some drastic measures to curb the hair loss. One sensible idea will be to first know the right cause and then look for an effective treatment. There are several factors that may lead to this condition like hormonal imbalance, nutrients’ deficiency, traumatic conditions, or the person’s genetics.
Women also produce testosterone (a male sex hormone) in trace amounts. An enzyme called type II 5-alpha reductase converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT gets attached to hair follicles in the scalp and causes them to shrink. This makes it difficult for the hair to survive, hence causing hair loss. Sudies show that even lower levels of DHT cause hair loss in women. Andogenetic alopecia is the medical term given to such a kind of hair loss.
A strand of hair completes its life-cycle in three stages. The growing phase called anagen, resting phase called catagen, and shedding off phase called telogen. The anagen phase lasts for anywhere between 2-8 years. However, under certain traumatic or stressful events, 85% of hair make a shift from anagen and catagen phase to telogen phase directly, and very early. Thereby leading to loss of hair. Stressful events, therefore, can be one of the causes of sudden hair loss in women. Such events can be childbirth, a severe infection, malnutrition, major surgery, and extreme stress. This type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium, and generally it is reversible.
Any impairment in the metabolism process of the hair follicle leads to a kind of hair loss called anagen effluvium. Mostly, such impairments are caused by chemotherapy. The reason is that chemotherapy targets rapidly dividing cancerous cells. Along with this, other rapidly dividing cells in our body, which are absolutely normal, also get affected. Cells in the hair follicles, which are in the anagen phase of growth, are one of them. Anagen effluvium is the term assigned to such a type of hair loss.
Tight Hair Styles
Some tight hair styles such as braids, cornrows, ponytails, and hair extensions constantly pull hair. Over a period of time, a localized trauma is produced on the hair follicles, which eventually leads to hair loss. Such a condition may be avoided by detecting and stopping the cause on time. This type of hair loss is medically called traction alopecia.
Drugs and Medications
There are a number of drugs that may lead to this condition in women. A few of them are mentioned here.
- Diet pills
- High doses of vitamins
- Anti-coagulants such as heparin and warfarin
- Birth control pills or oral contraceptives, particularly the ones high in progesterone
- Seizure medication such as dilantin
- Thyroid medication
- Medications that reduce lipid’s level
- Medication for controlling blood pressure such as, Inderal
- Mood altering medicines, most commonly, Prozac and Lithium
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like, Prednisone
There is an auto-immune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus which causes inflammation of many organs in the body. The major symptoms of this condition are fever, skin eruptions on the face, neck and hands, and hair loss. This disease mostly occurs in women between 20 to 50 years of age. Heredity is the main reason for the development of systemic lupus erythematosus.
Heredity also has a major role to play in this condition. Some women inherit the genes responsible for hair loss from their ancestors. Study of family history of the person may also give a clue. If any of your immediate family members have baldness, or patchy hair loss, you might also be at a risk of developing it.
There are many effective female hair loss treatments available. As hair loss is directly related to malnutrition and many diseases, it is better to follow a healthy diet to prevent deficiency of nutrients, as well as strengthen the immune system. High protein diet helps prevent this condition.